Court of Appeals Orders Plaintiffs To Respond to Maryland’s Request for a Decision in Purple Line Case

They have until Tuesday to respond


Published:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

Via U.S. Court of Appeals

It appears that the federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., may be moving at a swifter pace than the federal District Court in the handling of the long-running Purple Line lawsuit.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals ordered the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in 2014, to respond by 4 p.m. Tuesday to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s request that the appeals court force federal Judge Richard Leon to issue a ruling in the case. The court also asked the state to then respond to the plaintiffs’ remarks by noon May 25.

Frosh filed the request for a “writ of mandamus” Friday with the appeals court. The state noted in that filing that construction delays caused by Leon's decision to revoke the federal approval of the project last year could lead to the cancellation of the 16.2-mile, 21-station light-rail line planned to be built between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County.

The plaintiffs in the case are Town of Chevy Chase residents John Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua as well as the trail advocacy group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.

“I understand we have to file a response,” Ajay Bhatt, president of the trail group, said Wednesday on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU during a discussion about the Purple Line.

Dannielle Glaros, a Prince George’s County Council member, who was also part of the radio show’s discussion, said the state is trying to figure out a path forward with the legal maneuver.

“We are as shovel-ready on an infrastructure project as I’ve ever seen,” Glaros said. She noted that buildings have been moved, right-of-way has been purchased and other preparations have been made so the Purple Line can start construction.

In response to a question from Nnamdi, she said the fate of the project hangs in the balance.

“That is what I believe led the attorney general to make the request,” Glaros said. 

The state has been unable to secure $900 million in federal funds for the project due to Leon’s decision and has asked the Court of Appeals to force Leon to issue a new ruling so project construction can begin or the state can appeal if necessary. Leon has been weighing whether Metro’s recent ridership decline and safety issues may impact ridership on the Purple Line.

Metro will connect with the Purple Line at four stations in Montgomery County, but the Purple Line will be operated by the Maryland Transit Administration and its private partner, Purple Line Transit Partners, not the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees Metro.

The state and federal transit administrations provided information to Leon in mid-December in which they said Metro’s issues wouldn’t impact the Purple Line. Leon has not updated his ruling, despite requests from the state to do so that noted the state stands to lose about $13 million per month due to delays.

Appeals court judges Sri Srinivasan, Thomas Griffith and Nina Pillard are handling the case, according to the latest filing. Srinivasan and Pillard were both appointed by former president Barack Obama, while Griffith was appointed by George W. Bush.

Editor's note: The photo with this story originally depicted the D.C. Court of Appeals, not the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ordered the response. The story has been updated.

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